‘I love fashion because I know the power of it, and it goes through textile. I love fashion because for me it’s culture, it’s embellishment, it’s activism, it’s political expression, it’s all this and more.’ Says Carla Fernandez, who preserves the rich cultural heritage of Mexico’s indigenous communities through her Mexican fashion label. She is coming to WDCD Mexico City on 6, 7 & 8 May to talk about the role fashion has on empowering the people who make it as well as the people who wear it.

Carla Fernández is known for creating stunning contemporary designs by combining and adapting traditional techniques and styles with a modern touch. She originally studied art history in Mexico and has gone on to become an internationally renowned fashion designer, sharing her collections all over the world, from the UK and USA to China and Japan. In this interview she talks about the meaning of textile, her latest inspiration and fashion as cultural identity.

What meaning does textile hold for you?
‘Fashion represents the home you walk around with, how people read you, who you are and how you want to be seen.  As I learned from Mexican traditional garments, textiles are an open book, you can read them, they represent who you are, the community you belong to, and the women that wove them.

Fashion has the power to transform. In Mexico the way we dress is not only for adornment: a piece of clothing is more than an accessory to make you look good, it’s a way of acquiring other strengths, other traits, a ritual transformation.’

Carla Fernandez exhibition at SITELINES 2016

What are the inspiration & traditions incorporated in your latest collection? ‘My next collection Autumn/Winter 19-20 is called “68 Languages”. It shows the map of Mexico with typography of the names of the 68 ethnic groups that live today in my country. This map attempts to show that our current political borders are used as a mean to oppress and marginalize people whose human rights have been violated for generations.

We want to show how different ethnic groups have inhabited our territory for the last 5000 years. We present the names of the ethnic groups embroidered by different artisans around Mexico, using the different techniques. We work with Tzotziles, Tzeltales, Otomies, Nahuas, Chichimecas, Mayas and Mestizo artisans.’

What is your perception of how fashion influences cultural identity?
‘For me, fashion is how you express yourself and your identity and has always been one of the most powerful ways to express identity for humans. You dress to be read, and I always say that when you go to the house of someone, you meet that person. But is very rare that you have the chance to go to the house of someone, so the way people dress is like their mobile home.

Today, for Western eyes, its complex because fashion has become one of the most polluting industries, so it’s not only how it looks but how your clothing is made. For Ethnic groups clothing has always been a talking piece but for Westerners its only until recently that it’s about who made it: How was it made? And are you aware of how much it’s costing the people that made it? Does it imply suffering? And it is only becoming more complex.’

Carla Fernandez S/S 2019

Join WDCD Mexico City to hear more from Mexican fashion designer Carla Fernandez and how she presents and preserves cultural identity through fashion. Buy your tickets now at https://www.whatdesigncando.com/tickets-mexico/